The Crisis (Pt 2)

Trump bares his Bonapartist fangs

The conflict between Trump and some state governments grew as Trump claimed “total authority” to “reopen the economy” in any state whenever he wants. But he soon outdid himself when on April 15 he claimed, in complete contradiction to the U.S. Constitution and its “separation of powers” doctrine, that he had the right to “adjourn Congress.” No U.S. president has ever claimed that authority.

At a press conference, Trump bitterly attacked the Republican Senate as well as the Democratic House for remaining nominally in session, thereby blocking his authority to make “recess appointments.” The U.S. Constitution gives the president the right to appoint federal officials only with the consent of the Senate. If the Senate is not in session, the president can make a temporary recess appointment. The official who is appointed through such an appointment then has “acting” in front of his or her title. Trump prefers this because it removes the ability of the Senate to block his appointments.

However, if the president can “adjourn” the Senate and House of Representatives at will, the legislative branch of the government would be rendered powerless versus an all-powerful executive. Imagine if Richard Nixon in 1974, when told by Republican congressional leaders that he faced certain impeachment in the House of Representatives and conviction in the U.S. Senate, had simply adjourned the U.S. Congress instead of resigning!

There is a term for the system of government where the parliament is powerless and the executive is all-powerful. It is called the Bonapartist system. If Trump’s doctrine of total presidential authority and the right of the president to adjourn Congress was to be implemented and accepted as part of the system of government, the U.S. would no longer be an imperialist democracy — no matter how eroded — but a Bonapartist autocracy run by an all-powerful dictator-president.

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